Sunday, August 19

Tancrazy Train: "B" is for "Bigotry"

It appears the Tancrazy Train is still blowing steam. Despite an apparent period of uncertainty after the Iowa Republican Straw Poll, Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo is now buzzing like a mosquito around the East Coast, promising to discuss “the issues” with primary state voters.

But it’s problematic to have an honest discussion about “the issues” — plural — when you’re talking Tancredo. There really is only one issue, and that issue takes center stage, whether he’s on the House floor or holding court at a New Hampshire barbecue.

Of course the Rep.-cum-presidential candidate has opinions on other matters, but you can tell his heart just isn’t in trivial issues like the economy, the environment, the federal budget — even the Iraq war merits little time when there could be a Mexican crossing the border somewhere. Superfluous issues, like crumbling bridges and sub-prime loan crises, tend to take a backseat when Dog the Bounty Hunter is about to get extradited to Mexico.

While he dedicates little platform time to these other issues, his anti-immigrant stance poisons his positions on them. Crazy as he might be, Tancredo does comprise 20 percent of Colorado’s say in the U.S. House of Representatives. Add to that his penchant for attracting media attention for his outrageous antics, and its amazing the racket that one delusional nutjob can make on the national stage.

Take education, for instance. Like most social conservatives, Tancredo’s moral compass is set to “fundamentalist” when it comes to the classroom: He supports vouchers, tax credits for home-schooling, mandatory recitation of the Pledge, and prayer in public schools. He did break ranks with most Republicans over No Child Left Behind, but that’s only because he wants to shrivel the role of the federal government in schools.

But Tancredo’s bearing on education becomes far more toxic when his unapologetic loathing of multiculturalism is injected into the dialog. If bigotry were a school subject, Tancredo would be an honor student.

In 2000, Tancredo led the charge to decimate bilingual education for Spanish-speaking kids. Under the Tancredo “English immersion” plan, Spanish-speaking students would receive only one year of English training before they’d be forced to transition into regular classes, putting native Spanish speakers at a major disadvantage. It didn’t fly with voters, but it did give Tancredo way more podium time than such an ignorant scheme warranted.

Need we be reminded of Tancredo’s most virulent display of anti-Hispanic fervor, when, in 2002, he wanted to deport the family of an undocumented high school honor-roll student? After teenager Jesus Apodaca was featured in the Denver Post as one example of the thousands of gifted undocumented kids who lack the resources for higher education, Tancredo marched straight to the Denver INS office to inquire about deportation for Apodaca, who had immigrated with his family at 12 years old.

Tancredo failed, and Apodaca went on to major in computer science at CU-Denver.

And yet, repeated defeat hasn’t slowed Tanredo. He continues to preach, for example, that children should be restricted to no more than three years of bilingual education. And you gotta know it’s not German and French in his crosshairs. Tancredo doesn’t want Colorado’s kids learning Spanish, despite the fact that bilingual students possess countless cultural and academic advantages over their monolingual peers.

The man was graded an embarrassing 8% by the National Education Association for his views on public education. Sound like presidential material? Sound like Congressional material?

It’s tempting to write Tancredo off as an “idiot”. But therein lies the danger. Perhaps because he’s so obnoxious and perhaps because some people actually do agree with him, Tancredo somehow manages to continue claiming the media spotlight. The fear is not that he’ll actually become Commander in Chief; the fear is that he’s being allowed to spread his toxic views throughout Colorado (and now, the U.S.), and in the process, attempting to contaminate one of the few resources America hasn’t managed to screw up yet — kids.

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